Synopsis (the shortened Goodreads version):
An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.
Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past. Or that its fate will soon rest in her work-rough hands.
Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”
I so liked the fact that Kelsea Raleigh, the future Queen, was also a very plain girl who additionally was slightly overweight. It was such a relief that no man from her surrounding fell in love with her instantly just because of the mandatory good looks and willowy figure. I also loved the fact that the author made Kelsea take some pretty difficult, war-time decisions and never allowed her any leeway just because she was a young girl who happened to wear a crown. How to deal with a traitor? Should the entire nation be endangered for the sake of several hundred citizens? How to clean up the mess left after your inept predecessor? These are hard issues and I am so glad that Kelsea never shirked her responsibilities.
Still, even in the role of an active, dedicated Queen, in my humble opinion young Kelsea sounded rather strangely mature for her age . It came too quickly. Sometimes I simply forgot that she was supposed to be just a 19-year-old sheltered girl, brought up in the woods by two dedicated servants. Sometimes her quips and language made her sound almost 30 or even older. Also the mystery about who fathered her was a bit too obvious to solve – near the end I was pretty sure about the identity of her daddy. Of course I might be wrong.
The world build was a bit similar to the one I encountered in Mark Lawrence “…of Thorns” series BUT without that breathtaking attention to quirky detail. Because of it I found it less impressive, less carefully thought out, a bit inconsistent and generally slightly disappointing, even with those magic sapphires. So we are in a kind of strange future (24th century) without almost any technology. There might be magical jewels and books by J.K. Rowling around but there is no printing press anymore? They can’t print books but they can cook narcotics and perform transplant surgeries? Oh, and they know plenty about the recessive genes? Where are computers and the Internet I ask you? Where are those nifty 3D printers? Ok, whatever. Mind you it is the first part of a series, things might change for better or for worse.
An interesting beginning of a series but not without flaws. It might get better it might get worse – we’ll see. Or not. Almost meh.